Monday, June 23, 2014

The Others

I'm starting to wonder if talking about genres isn't becoming my pet project.

I mentioned before that our rigid adherence to genre definitions might be limiting how well we enjoy movies. If you didn't feel like clicking that link just now, the cliff notes are: movie genres should not be defined by their contents, but by their intended emotional effect on the audience. You can find examples all over the place of two movies in supposedly the same genre that have a completely different effect on the audience. If Only is not the same type of romance movie as, say, Casablanca or It Happened One Night. Aliens is a completely different kind of thing from Let the Right One In or Audition. You are expected to laugh at different things from Borat than you would at Dr. Strangelove. And yet despite all this, we still paint everything with strokes that are far too broad, occasionally to a movie's detriment.

 Inception is a decent example of this. What genre would you place this movie in? Is it science-fiction, a heist, a psychological thriller, an action flick? There are certainly elements of all of these things in Inception, but you can't really definitely call it just one genre can you? I have no way of proving this, but I suspect this hurt Inception at the box office when it first came out. When you talk to your friends about what movie you're going to see tonight, usually you describe it in terms of genre. "Should we see the horror movie or the romance movie?" Or, "Should we Inception? It's an action movie...I think?"

(Quick side note: Along with defining movies by their intended emotional affect on the audience, I don't think it's too off-base to suggest that movies might also be defined by their directors. You can see a fantasy movie or you can see a Tim Burton movie, for example. You can see an action movie, or you can see a Tarantino film.)

This leads me to The Others, which I think is a movie that is hurt by the genre it seems like it should be in.

Taking a look at this cover, you would easily assume that this is a horror movie. For the most part, you would be right, but not enough to really justify calling this a "horror film". For one, the thing is not very scary, which is ok, because I believe the intent of this movie was to make it more of a mystery.

The ending was spoiled for me, and I won't spoil it for you. This is the type of movie that makes it obvious as soon as it can that things are not what they seem, so if I inform you that there's a twist at the end, I don't think it will ruin your viewing experience. (Feel free to blame me if it does.) I say this because I watched it knowing how the thing would end, but I was still interested. I knew the end result, but I didn't know the details of how we would get there, and the twists on the road towards the ending were so winding that I was intrigued regardless. And yet...

And yet this movie was made to look like a horror film. There are definitely some elements meant to be creepy, but, I would argue (on admittedly shaky ground) that the intent was to thrown a sense of confusion on the audience rather than frighten them. You're supposed to ask, "How are these spooky noises being made? Where are they coming from?" Rather than, "Oh god, spooky noises. I know they're going to die now!" People's experiences watching this film would be greatly improved if they went into thinking it was a supernatural mystery, rather than something meant to keep them awake at night.

1) Well made? - Absolutely. The use of lighting alone is worth watching.
2) Contributed?  - Yeah, I think so. I like a movie that fills in the spaces between genres.
3) Good time? - Even knowing the ending, I had a great time watching it unfold
4) Watch again? - For sure. I was watching it with the ending in mind, and I imagined I noticed things that most people wouldn't see if they didn't know the ending.
5) Worth it?  - Oh yes
6) Who should watch this? - I think the only people who wouldn't enjoy this are those looking for a good scare. It just didn't really exist here.

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